Fall in crime in England and Wales 'may be exaggerated'

The scene in Stockport, where an off-duty police officer was killed at the weekend Violent crime makes headlines but overall crime against adults fell in the 12 months to September 2012

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A study of crime trends in England and Wales has suggested the fall in offences recorded by police may have been exaggerated.

The Office for National Statistics said the "rate of reduction" in recorded crime "may overstate" the decrease.

Shadow policing minister David Hanson called for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to look at the apparent discrepancies.

The Home Office said there was "no simple answer" to the apparent anomaly.

The ONS compared certain categories of crimes and found police-recorded offences had fallen by 33% over the previous five years, while data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales suggested a decline of 17%.

The ONS also published crime figures for the 12 months to the end of September 2012, which showed continued falls in virtually every category.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said police recorded 7% fewer crimes than the year before, while the Crime Survey of England and Wales indicated there had been a "statistically significant" fall of 8%.


A decade ago new methods of counting crimes were introduced across England and Wales to iron out inconsistencies between police forces and ensure that when a victim reported a crime, it was properly logged.

The rule changes came about after huge variations were discovered in crime-recording rates. For the first five years, under the new system, there was little difference between the reduction in crimes under the police figures and the decline measured by the Crime Survey of England and Wales, suggesting the new rules were being followed closely.

But since 2007, there has been a marked discrepancy: have the police simply become lax in their approach - or are they deliberately cooking the books?

The ONS does not provide the answers - but HM Inspectorate of Constabulary might. Last year it examined the way offences were recorded - its report will make interesting reading.

'Informal pressure'

ONS statistician John Flatley said the bigger falls in police-recorded crimes may be due to pressures to meet targets on crime reduction and detections.

"It's more the culture and informal pressure of having targets and expectations," he said.

Other possible reasons for under-recording suggested by the ONS include more low-level crimes being dealt with informally and outside the formal crime-recording system, with officers given greater discretion.

Mr Flatley said it was also "possible" that reductions in police budgets and officers meant fewer offences were being recorded.

He said as resources were more stretched the "balance shifts" to less compliance with crime-recording systems.

Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said crime was continuing to fall and was now at the lowest level since the survey began.

"Police reform is working. We have swept away central targets, reduced bureaucracy and these figures show forces are rising to the challenge of doing more with less. Many have achieved significant reductions in crime with reduced budgets," he said.

'Build trust'

Shadow policing minister Mr Hanson said: "There are warning signs for the police and Home Office, with the increase in theft. And earlier this week the British Retail Consortium's survey showed an increase of over 15% in the cost of retail crime alongside a drop in the proportion of crime reported by retailers to the police from 48% to 16%.

"This is perhaps why the Office for National Statistics has begun to express concern that apparent reductions in police recorded crime may be exaggerated.

"The home secretary should examine urgently whether, as the ONS suggest, the cuts to police budgets mark a return to fewer crimes being recorded by the police."

A Home Office spokesman said: "As the ONS highlights in their report, there is no simple answer as to why there has been some variation in crime trends between the Crime Survey and police-recorded crime. The two measurements were always intended to assess different things and have different strengths."

The spokesman said the Home Office had transferred the statistics to the ONS to "build public trust" and was "continuing to work with forces to ensure accurate data".

The Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on statistics, Douglas Paxton, said the study had noted the quality of crime recording by the UK police was "amongst the best in the world".

"Ensuring our data is as robust as it can be has a direct impact on public trust and confidence and we will continue to ensure forces continue to meet the national standard when it comes to recording crimes," said Mr Paxton, Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    "There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up"
    Rex Stout

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Definitely fiddling the books. They are ignoring many offences and not recording other properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    well, they said they would cut police paperwork. It seems the paperwork referred to was recording crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    88.Joyanblu - "Crime doesn't pay? I got a clip on the ear from my local bobby 50 years ago for scrumping apples........"

    Whereas 20 years ago the local Bobbies in Sheffield and their bosses lied to blame the Liverpool supporters for the force's cock up at Hillsborough....

    ....the Police should catch criminals, not be prosecutor, judge & jury....

  • Comment number 455.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    The thin blue line is at breaking point, moral gone and more and more workload for fewer and fewer officers. NO wonder they are not able to record crime they are at breaking point and not appreciated for the continued drops in crime over 20+ years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    A fall in crime is because the paper work is NOT being done. The UK deliberately leaves out ULSTER, and probably does not include the London and other city Riots. And possible riots to come in mainland GB like in Greece & Spain. It is the same as the fixing of UNEMPLOYMENT. There are more jobs in the UK, an all time high. They fail to tell you MOST are part time jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    'I saw an article about muslims policing their own streets in London...I disagree with their homophobic application..people need to realise that society is best policed by itself'

    Religious bigots should never be an option to police society - it is they who need to be punished. The cases in London that have come to light so far were homophobic, racist and sexist. It's 2013 not 1513!

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Maybe if the police didn't have to spend so long compiling pointless figures purely for the politicians to spin they'd actually have more time to do what they were employed to do. Even if the figures genuinely have gone down no one actually believes them anyway, so what's the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    For what it's worth, I have no doubt at all that crime has reduced quite considerably over the last few years. The amount of damaged property and deserted cars is much lower and break ins are down too. It may well be that I live in an area that is unrepresentative, but I feel much safer and I know that my friends and family do to. I suspect this report is mischief making for political reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    #444 If you have a lathe you can make a musket. No rifling. Its going to be so inaccurate you might as well just stab your victim because you're going to be that close.

    For someone with such an obsessive desire to own a gun you've really very little knowledge of how they work. FAR easier to just convert a .22 CO2 air pistol to fire .22 short pistol rounds (thats pretty useless too BTW )

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    It's the weather, stupid!
    Do you really expect our boys in black to turn out in the kind of weather we had last year!? - especially on their lousy wages (before overtime).

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    In fact the Police break many laws to achieve their own aim!"

    If you seriously believe that then you need to make a complaint: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/en/Pages/default.aspx

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    More dodgy stastics from this dodgy government,
    I wouldn`t buy a used car from anyone of them, they are all full of bull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Sad to say people have no faith in the police now as alot of people know that smaller crimes will be esentually ignored. This is not the police's fault, its the govt. fault as they shouldnt keep making cuts in the policing department. Any more cuts and criminals will end up running a mock but innocent people will be caught up by dealing with crime themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    416 Boris Roach: "I make gun parts for a living and when you've got your printed 3d gun I'll stand in front of you while you fire it.. because thats going to be the safest place to be"

    All you need is a lathe (which anyone can own) to churn out the barrel/chamber. Everything else can be made from plastic. This 3D printer technology will get better and more efficient with time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    I saw an article about muslims policing their own streets in London. While I disagree with their homophobic application of their own religious ideals, people need to realise that society is best policed by itself.

    Police rarely stop or prevent crimes, sometimes catch the perpetrators, but are mostly there to provide crime numbers and act as government jackboots oppressing freedom..

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    'Target', I'm afraid, no longer means what it says. It's become a figure that must be hit at all costs. That means staff and departments will use any trick to attain that figure - ethics go out the window.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    Like the employment / unemployment figures provided by ONS, this is another figure that does not bear close scrutiny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    If we made the failure to report a crime a crime in itself then the number of crimes would be constant.

    Of course we would not know if crimes had actually been committed but we could assume they were and use previous crime figures as a guide on this.

    That way we can report real and virtual crimes.


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